Helpful tool to spot bad payers

By August 23, 2015Public

home_thumbs_workmoneyChasing payments is a fact of life for most freelancers, and when you’re approached by a new client there is often a nagging questionmark about whether or not they will pay on time, or worse — go bust.

Now you can find out a little bit more about the financial strength, or otherwise, of clients on the Companies House website. The website is still in development, but the beta version allows you to access profit and loss accounts which give a clear picture of their financial health.


The website might also prove useful for  stories as you can quickly find how much profit a private clinic or health company is making. For instance, a quick browse revealed some eye-watering profits in the IVF sector.

Best of all, the website is free.

Click here to search the Companies House website


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Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Fiona Milne says:

    Any advice on the most cost-effective process for chasing an unpaid invoice please?

  • Jane Symons says:

    It’s a tricky one. You have to balance pester power and how important it is to retain them as a client.

    Always put a due date on invoices when you submit them (it may need it later)

    Start by trying to find out who actually processes the payment so you can identify the process and where in the system it’s being held up. I was recently chasing an invoice for a big project spanning a couple of months and discovered the person who authorised payments only did so on one day in the middle of the month and the payment was then made at end of that month — but if you missed his one day giving autographs you had no hope of seeing the money until the end of the following month. (I was lucky, made this discovery a day or two before and a secretary walked the paperwork around to his secretary)

    Which leads to my next tip. Be firm, but always be polite. Until proven otherwise, assume it’s cock-up rather than a no-or-slow-pay policy. Explain it is causing cashflow problems. Ask them to imagine the difficulties they would incur if their salary wasn’t paid (a lot of people who have not worked as a freelance have absolutely no idea how problematic cashflow can be).

    If you have identified the process you should have identified the snag, or have a date for payment. Approach the person responsible for the bottleneck directly — call the main number and ask for accounts rather than going back to the person who commissioned you.

    If they are simply refusing to pay, or keep coming up with different excuses you can threaten to Tweet asking them when you can expect payment as your account is xx overdue — it may burn a bridge, but believe me, it works a treat.

    Alternatively, mention that non-payment has become a bit of a sore point among members of the MJA and we do share experiences on the password protected areas of the website. If you know of others who have had problems, mention this and say you would prefer not to have to pursue legal channels to recover the money, but you will if necessary.

    If the invoice is more than 30 days overdue you are entitled to charge interest — so write with a final warning saying you intend to add interest. You can also give them this link

    As you will see, you can also add a small fee for having to chase the money.

    And if all else fails, threaten them with the Small Claims Tribunal — and follow through with the threat.

    There’s more useful information here

    I have never got to the small claims stage — hopefully you won’t need to either
    Good luck

    • Fiona Milne says:

      JJane, that’s really helpful, thank you. At least they are improving – the first invoice took seven months to pay; second invoice four months; my third invoice was submitted in September and has already “reached accounts”. I will keep you posted. At the very least, charging interest will make me feel better.

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